WITH A MISSION EXPANDING BEYOND ITS GOURMET TASTING MENU, VIOLETTE’S CELLAR ALSO SUPPORTS SIUH’S BURGEONING COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
Peter Botros has a true love for food: There’s ample enough proof of that in all five of his restaurants, where he has been presenting servings of Wagyu Beef with crystallized cilantro salad and Shrimp & Lobster Risotto among dozens of other innovative entrees in the process changing the way Staten Islanders dine over the past five years. But, since opening Violette’s Cellar in 2017, the chef has also quietly introduced the borough to one of his other passions: philanthropy.
“The truth is, unfortunately, too many people here have been affected by cancer in some way,” Botros noted. He lost his mother to breast cancer when he was just 14, and was diagnosed with the same affliction at the age of 26, undergoing a double mastectomy to aggressively treat the disease.
Recent research bears this assessment out. According to a January released study by the American Cancer Society, Staten Island experienced the highest rate of new cancer cases in New York City from 2011 to 2015.
“Whether they have it themselves or have lost a loved one, this has touched everyone in the borough in some way, shape, or form,” said Botros. “So, when we opened Violette’s, my partners and I knew that we wanted the restaurant to have a significant charitable component…some way of raising funds to fight this disease that has impacted the borough so much.”
To achieve that end, Botros teamed up with restaurant partners Phil Farinacci and Marc Zurlo to find a local recipient for their fundraising efforts.
“We felt very strongly about helping local families,” Botros said. “And in a sort of fortuitous chain of events, Staten Island University Hospital announced around the same time that they were embarking on a Comprehensive Cancer Center project. We knew right away that they would be our beneficiary.”
Together with Sommelier Roberto Hernandez and restaurant COO, Doug Bifulco, the trio of restaurateurs decided to match what was at the time the hospital’s largest single donation, $250,000, and pledged to do so in a span of seven years. They laid the financial groundwork and set annual goals, a combination of restaurant proceeds and donations from charitable events. Botros proudly reported that they are already ahead of pace.
“Peter, Phil, and Marc are doing a lot of great things at that restaurant,” noted Dr. Laura Longo, senior director of oncology services for SIUH, and who is currently overseeing the operations and business plan for the Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Through their charitable donations, they are helping to sponsor a truly wonderful center that will benefit so many people.”
The 40,000 square foot and $35 million project is scheduled to have its groundbreaking ceremony in mid December. It will add a third floor to the already existing two story Radiation Oncology Center, while renovating the first two floors. The project will also include 10 adult and three pediatric infusion chairs used in the chemotherapy process.
“The Center will be home to personalized and modern care, with spacious chemo bays and spa like amenities including a Zen room and garden space as well as concierge level support services to help patients navigate the difficult process of treatment,” Dr. Longo said.
For Violette’s partners, Farinacci and Zurlo, who both lost their mothers to the disease just this year, the construction of such a facility here in their hometown is comforting.
“Every family in America has been touched by the wrath of cancer,” Farinacci said. “My mother lost her battle in January, and the pain is still very fresh. A place like this represents a beacon of hope and will provide a lot of comfort for those who are still fighting.” Zurlo agreed.
“Staten Island is afflicted by this scourge at all too high a rate,” he said. “My father, my grandmother, and my mother all battled with the disease, and there are so many families here still doing just that. That’s why this cause is so near to our hearts. We’re dedicated to doing whatever we can to fight and find a cure. We have tremendous faith and hope in this new Center and what it will do for the people of the borough.”
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For more information about Staten Island University Hospital Projects, call its Development Office at 718.226.2746